Cloud computing, unified communications and BYOD promise to bring big benefits to organizations, from greater collaboration and productivity to improved efficiency and lower costs.
However, the trends, which are hitting the data center at the same time, also pose some significant challenges, not the least of which is gaining enough visibility into the networks to ensure that the IT staff can properly manage and secure them, according to a survey by Network Instruments.
“The technologies are kind of being forced on them,” Brad Reinboldt, senior product manager at Network Instruments, told eWEEK. “They need the technology,” but need the tools to manage and monitor them properly.
Among the findings in Network Instruments’ Sixth Annual State of the Network Global Study were that organizations are saying that bring-your-own-device (BYOD) technology is the most difficult to monitor, and that bandwidth demand will continue to spike as these new services and technologies are incorporated.
The survey by Network Instruments, which makes and sells network management solutions, was released July 23. The results were drawn from responses from 170 network engineers, IT directors and CIOs in a number of regions, including North America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and South America.
For the various data center trends, the company found that most IT professionals understood the benefits cloud computing, BYOD, unified communications (UC) and faster bandwidth will bring to their companies, but also worried about managing and securing the company’s data.
For many businesses, UC is quickly moving beyond voice over IP (VOIP) and into new areas, including videoconferencing, Web-based collaboration and messaging. VOIP deployments are staying around 70 percent, but 62 percent of respondents said they have deployed videoconferencing, and more than 60 percent have deployed instant messaging. Adoption of videoconferencing and instant messaging both grew more than 35 percent over the last four years, and more than half of organizations this year have deployed Web collaboration applications, such as Cisco Systems’ WebEx.
“Traditionally, UC was very focused on the voice aspect,” Charles Thompson, director of product strategy at Network Instruments, said in an interview with eWEEK. “We’re really seeing people adopting more than just voice.”
That’s bringing with it some monitoring problems, Thompson said. More than two-thirds of the respondents said their biggest challenge is gaining visibility into the user experience, and UC tools won’t be utilized to their full potential if users are reluctant to use them because of latency or jitter problems with the video, for example, he said.
Respondents also said they were concerned about the difficulties assessing bandwidth used by UC programs and the inability to view communications at the edge of the network.
In last year’s survey, 60 percent said their organizations had adopted cloud computing. That number jumped to 70 percent this year, with 39 percent having deployed private clouds and another 14 percent leveraging external private cloud services, such as Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, Savvis Symphony Dedicated and Citrix Systems’ Cloud.com.
Most organizations expect that about half of their applications will be in the cloud within the next 12 months, with the top cloud services being email at 59 percent, Web hosting at 48 percent, storage (45 percent), and testing and development (41 percent).
Twenty-three percent of respondents said they had moved VOIP into the cloud, though only 16 percent had migrated complex services, such as enterprise resource management, in that direction.
Data security remains the top concern about the cloud, with 80 percent calling it the number-one worry. Other concerns include compliance challenges, the lack of ability to monitor the user’s experience and to assess the impact cloud is having on network bandwidth. However, 43 percent said the availability of applications in the cloud had improved, and 37 percent said the end-user experience in moving to the cloud also improved.
The adoption of 10 Gigabit Ethernet in the data center is rising rapidly, with 77 percent of respondents saying they will use the technology within the next 12 months, a growth of 52 percent over the last four years. Twenty percent said they will migrate to 40GbE within the next year.
Businesses are anxious to get to 40GbE to help ease bandwidth issues caused by such trends as UC, BYOD and cloud, Network Instruments’ Reinboldt said. ”There’s just too much data,” he said. “There’s so much pushing through the pipe … they can’t wait anymore.”
With applications and networks growing in complexity, resolving problems increasingly becomes an issue. The biggest concern in this area was the inability to identify the source of the problem, according to 70 percent of respondents. Another third said they were still having trouble with bandwidth, according to the survey.
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